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Science. 2008 Jun 27;320(5884):1763-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1157704.

A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history.

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  • 1Zoology Department, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA.


Deep avian evolutionary relationships have been difficult to resolve as a result of a putative explosive radiation. Our study examined approximately 32 kilobases of aligned nuclear DNA sequences from 19 independent loci for 169 species, representing all major extant groups, and recovered a robust phylogeny from a genome-wide signal supported by multiple analytical methods. We documented well-supported, previously unrecognized interordinal relationships (such as a sister relationship between passerines and parrots) and corroborated previously contentious groupings (such as flamingos and grebes). Our conclusions challenge current classifications and alter our understanding of trait evolution; for example, some diurnal birds evolved from nocturnal ancestors. Our results provide a valuable resource for phylogenetic and comparative studies in birds.

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